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Chili Too Sweet? Here Are 6 Ways To Easily Fix It

What’s better than chili for a quick and simple meal full of flavor?

Each household might have their own chili recipe, often handed down from mother to daughter, but there is a common mistake that it’s just too easy to make when preparing chili.

If you made your chili too sweet!

The good news is you don’t need to throw out the whole pot.

In fact there are several ways to fix your sweet chili using ingredients you already have in the kitchen like vinegar and salt.

You can also use your creativity to tone down the flavor or enrich your recipe in a different way.

How to make chili less sweet? 

adding meat to sweet chili

Chili is one of those dishes that is almost completely customizable.

Everyone has their own chili recipe, often passed on by relatives or friends, which is then personalized based on one’s unique taste.

You can find tons of chili recipes online, from the very classic ones to vegetarian alternatives, from beef to pork, to chicken.

Each recipe has at least one ingredient that makes it different from the others.

One thing that most chili recipes have in common is one component whose purpose is to make the chili sweeter to balance out acidic ingredients like tomatoes.

It doesn’t have to be industrial sugar or brown sugar, as there are many foods, including vegetables like carrots, that contain natural sugars.

It’s easy to overestimate the amount of sugar needed in your chili.

This is why it’s not unusual to taste your dish and find that your chili is too sweet.

In order to remove the sweet taste in chili, you could think of throwing it out and start over, but it would be a waste of ingredients, time, and money.

There are better and less expensive ways to fix chili that is too sweet.

For example, you can choose one of the methods explained below.

Increase volume

adding volume to chili

You can neutralize sweetness in chili by making sure the other ingredients cover up the flavor of sugar.

The easiest way to do this is to make a new chili sauce with all the ingredients you previously used, except for the sugary ones.

Add this new chili sauce to the pot and stir well.

The increased volume should be enough to snuff the extra sweetness.

You can also increase the ingredients directly into the pot you’re already using.

In order to enhance the flavor of the savory ingredients while keeping the right balance in your chili, make sure to increase the quantity according to the proportions stated in the original recipe.

For example:

If the recipe calls for one tablespoon of a certain ingredient, add another tablespoon.

If it calls for two teaspoons of another ingredient, add two more teaspoons of that ingredient.

If you keep the right balance with all the ingredients, you will be able to neutralize the sweetness while keeping the flavor of your chili as it should be.

Add souring agents

adding acid to chili

A quick and very effective way to counteract sweetness in chili and other sauces is to use souring agents.

These are things like lemon juice, vinegar, or anything you have at hand with a sour taste that goes well with your recipe.

The quantity to use depends on the type of sour agent you choose.

But you can never go wrong if you start with very small quantities and let it blend properly before tasting it (and adding some more, if necessary).

For the most common souring agents, you can follow these rules:


Start with 1 tablespoon of white vinegar per quart of chili. Stir thoroughly and taste. If you’re not satisfied, add one more tablespoon and repeat the process.

Lemon juice:

Add 1 tablespoon of lemon juice per quart of chili. Stir well, let it blend, and taste it. If the chili is still too sweet, add another tablespoon and repeat.

Dry Mustard:

Use ½ tablespoon of dry mustard per quart of chili. Stir it in, taste, and add more if you haven’t reached the desired flavor.

Dry wine:

Start with ½ tablespoon of very dry wine. You can only use wine if having a little alcohol in your dish is not a problem. Stir it well and taste it. Add more wine gradually if necessary.

Add salt

Salt can be a double-edged sword because, on one hand, it does balance out the sweetness in chili.

But on the other hand, it could also enhance the sweetness of certain ingredients.

When pouring additional ingredients in your chili, you should always proceed with caution, but this is especially true with salt. Start very small, for example with ⅛ of a tablespoon.

Stir it thoroughly, but don’t taste the chili immediately.

Let it simmer for a few minutes, around 5 minutes should be enough. If the chili is still too sweet, add another ⅛ tablespoon of salt.

You can only repeat this procedure two or three times. If it doesn’t unsweeten the chili, consider using other methods.

Too much salt will enhance the sweetness and also make your chili impossible to eat.

Salt should also be consumed with caution because a larger quantity than the recommended daily intake of salt could be unhealthy.

If you have people in your family who are on a low-sodium diet, do not use this method.

Add hot peppers

hot peppers for chili

If you’re up for a little spice, peppers can become a good tool to unsweeten chili.

The spicier your chili is, the less likely you are to notice the extra sweetness.

You can use whatever you prefer to spice up your chili.

For quick results, you can use a hot pepper sauce or paste.

Otherwise, there are many peppers to choose from, like jalapenos or poblanos.

Slice them up and pour them into your chili sauce.

Stir them well and let them sit in your chili for a few minutes, so they can develop a stronger taste and enhance your dish.

You can also use red pepper flakes, which you probably already have in your kitchen as they’re a famous staple seasoning.

However, pepper flakes add depth, rather than spice, so they might not be the most suitable addition to counteract sweetness in chili.

This is not a good method if you or your guests have a low tolerance for spiciness.

In that case, consider alternative methods to neutralize the sweetness in your chili.

Add fats

Foods high in fats can be used to balance a variety of dishes, but are especially good with spicy and sweet dishes.

Much like how we can drink a glass of milk to neutralize a burning throat due to a spicy pepper, fats work as inhibitors for extreme salty, spicy or sweet flavors.

You can imagine fats like a cloth that wraps around the sweet flavor and makes it go unnoticed to your tongue.

You can fix chili sweetness by adding sour cream, shredded cheese, Greek yogurt, or the fatty food you prefer.

This can also give you a chance to experiment with different flavors following your personal taste.

Remember to add the fats at the end of the cooking process, because they can become unpleasant if you let them boil.

Add additional ingredients

One of the reasons chili is such a popular dish is its incredible flexibility.

There is no fixed rule to make chili, although you may find recipes labeled as ‘classic chili recipe’.

Part of why chili is such an enjoyable dish is because everyone can make their own version of it.

Although we’re all equipped with the same taste buds, we all experience flavors differently.

As such, you don’t have to stop at the usual methods to unsweeten chili — you can experiment with toppings, seasonings, or side dishes.

Bring shredded sharp cheddar along with chili to the dinner table, or pour sour cream, jalapenos, or chopped onions into different bowls to support the main dish.

These are just a few of the alternatives to make chili less sweet without actually working on the recipe.

You can also turn your chili into a tasty addition to your pasta or plain rice.

Unleash your creativity with this versatile dish and find the combination that better matches your personal preferences.

Why is your chili too sweet?

When your chili is too sweet, sometimes it’s just a mistake, a momentary distraction or miscalculation that makes you add a little too much sugar or sugary ingredients in your dish.

However, many people find that their chili is extra-sweet without any apparent reason and don’t always understand the cause behind this unusual flavor.

One of the big ingredients in chili is usually tomatoes, whether in a can, diced, or under different forms.

Much like it happens with a spaghetti sauce that is too sweet, it is common to have an extra-sweet chili because of the type of tomatoes used.

Tomatoes are usually considered acidic ingredients, but store-bought tomatoes often have added sugar or spices already blended in.

This can easily make your chili too sweet even when you don’t add any other sugary ingredient.

There is no winning formula to choose the right type of tomato for your chili, as it can be a trial-and-error process to find that one type that is perfect for your preference.

A solution to this problem would be buying the most ‘natural’ tomato sauce available, as to avoid added sugars and other additions.

The best alternative, however, is to buy fresh tomatoes during tomato season, from May to October.

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